Millis High School senior project funds service dog for middle school
Paige Zarnofsky with Harry, the Millis High School service dog. Zarnofksy's senior project was to raise money to fund a similar service dog for the middle school; she reached her goal in just one month. Photo source: Instagram @harrymhs
By Theresa Knapp
When Millis High School student Paige Zarnofsky started fundraising for her senior project – a service dog for Millis Middle School - she knew it could take some time to reach her goal of $7,500. She started selling soaps at MetroWest basketball games and sharing her project on the Millis Public Forum Facebook page. She also applied for grants through MERIT [Millis Educational Resource Initiatives Team] and other programs.
“I’m so grateful that people saw the importance of having a service dog for the middle school and donated generously. I’m so beyond grateful for the Millis Community,” says Zarnofsky. A month later, she had raised a little over $1,000 when she got a call from her project mentor at the middle school, Kerry Fanning.
“We’ve had an amazing surprise,” Zarnofsky told Local Town Pages in mid-January. “MERIT ended up donating the rest of the money to fund my senior project…It was super unexpected and I’ve never heard of someone whose fundraiser ended in January!”
Now the school will be matched with a dog through ACTS [Assistance Canine Training Services] and teachers will be trained as facilitators.
Zarnofsky says her original senior project was centered around Harry, the current service dog at Millis High School.
“My English teacher then mentioned how the middle school was currently looking for a service dog and going through the process.” She contacted Fanning, who was spearheading the initiative, and the rest is history.
Zarnofsky says, “It’s important to have a dog for the middle school because middle school can be a tough time for many. When you see a dog, it puts you in better spirits. We want all students to feel comfortable and safe in the school, having a service dog makes it even better. Not only does the dog help with mental health for some students, but the dog is also someone they can go talk to. People might find it easier talking to a dog instead of a person.”
She says that, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, “we have seen a significant rise in students’ mental health issues at the middle school level. As a district, we have seen the therapeutic benefits bestowed by a facility dog at the high school level. We would love for our middle school students to be able to have that same opportunity.”
When the new middle school dog arrives, it will live with Fanning. On school days, the dog will be upstairs in the middle school where it will support students through the SELF [Social Emotional Learning Foundation] program.
Zarnofsky, who plans to major in college in business administration, continues to raise money for miscellaneous supplies not covered by the MERIT grant. She is accepting donations via Venmo @paigez